Willy Maltaite, known simply as Will, was one of the cartoonists responsible for the success of the weekly Spirou magazine after World War II. He was not only the most important artist of the classic 'Tif et Tondu' series, but also of the poetic 'Isabelle' and of the beautifully painted stories he made for Dupuis' Aire Libre collection later in his career.
Born in Anthée, he was encouraged by his parents to pursue an art apprenticeship at the Saint-Joseph in Maredsous at a very early age. Not much later, he moved in with Jijé, who taught him the finer aspects of the comics profession.
Will drew a nude pin-up on a French Air Force Mirage jet drop tank
photo © Jean-Luc Beghin
Together with Jijé, Morris and Franquin, he was a member of the infamous "Gang of 4", a team of artists that worked in Jijé's house in Waterloo and defined the atmosphere of post-war Spirou. Will had made his first illustrations for Bonnes Soirées and Le Moustique, two magazines published by Éditions Dupuis, was first present in the publisher's comics weekly Spirou in 1947.
La Mystère du Bambochal
Encouraged by his studio colleagues, he created his first comic strip, 'La Mystère du Bambochal', but the editor of Spirou turned it down. He did however self-publish it in 1950. Despite of this disappointment, he was asked to graphically take over the series 'Tif et Tondu' from its creator Fernand Dineur in 1949.
Tif et Tondu - Oscar et ses mystères (1956)
Will would illustrate this series, that had started in Spirou's first issue in 1938, until 1990. Will drew his first stories from scripts by Dineur. Then came some stories written by Luc Bermar and Albert Despréchins, but the series really came to flourish when Maurice Rosy took on the writing duties in 1955. With Rosy, 'Tif et Tondu' evolved from a jolly adventure comic to a more mature series. Several fantasy and mystery elements were added, most notably the mysterious and masked criminal Monsieur Choc.
Although the artist of one of the most popular series in Spirou, Will also tried his luck elsewhere. He first created 'Lili Mannequin' with René Goscinny for Paris-Flirt in 1957, and left Dupuis completely in the following year to become the art director for the Lombard magazine Tintin. He remained in this occupation until 1959 and then returned to Dupuis in 1960.
Since 'Tif et Tondu' was by then taken over by Marcel Denis, Will assisted Peyo on the backgrounds of the first 'Benoît Brisefer' stories. Will had proven to be a talented background artist with Franquin's 1955 'Spirou et Fantasio' episode 'Les Pirates du Silence' and in later years, François Walthéry would also call in Will's help for the backgrounds of his 'Natacha' series.
Will also drew the first two episodes of Peyo's new adventure series 'Jacky et Célestin', that appeared in Le Soir Illustré in 1961-62. He was additionally contributing illustrations and the comic strip 'Monsieur Farfelu' to Bonux-Boy, Benoît Gillain's series of advertising mini-comics.
Illustration by Will for the children's book 'Antonin',
written by Charles Degotte for Dupuis' Collection Caroussel in 1967
Will was present in Record magazine with 'Record et Véronique' (scripts René Goscinny), 'Marco et Aldebert' (1961-65, scripts Rosy) and 'Quatrépingle et Ficelet' (1962, script Chappuis). He created the series 'Éric et Artimon' with writer Vicq for Spirou in 1962-63, before resuming 'Tif et Tondu' with Rosy in 1964.
Maurice Tillieux took over the scriptwork of 'Tif et Tondu' in 1968 and under his reign, the comic became a true detective series. This showed off in Will's artwork, that became more realistic. After Tillieux's unfortunate death in a car accident 1978, Stephen Desberg took over.
Desberg added more serious elements and social issues, such as nazism and also brought back an even more evil Monsieur Choc. Will and Desberg would additionally make an occasional comic story in the series 'Oncle Jules' between 1978 and 1984.
In addition to his work for 'Tif et Tondu', Will teamed up with Yvan Delporte and Raymond Macherot to create the poetic fairytale series 'Isabelle'. Franquin joined the team in 1975, and Macherot left two stories later. The series appeared irregularly in Spirou until 1994, and was collected in 12 books by Dupuis.
In the later 'Isabelle' stories, by then scripted by only Delporte, Will first employed painted colours, a technique that enhanced the series' poetic character.
When Dupuis launched its Aire Libre collection in 1988, Will and Desberg were present with two adult stories. In both 'Le Jardin des Désirs' (1988) and 'La 27e Lettre' (1990), the artist showed his joy in drawing sensual women. Will and Desberg subsequently created 'L'Appel de l'Enfer' for P&T Productions in 1993.
In the late 1990s, Will started to work on 'L'Arbre des deux printemps', another story with painted colors. The script was written by Rudy Miel, with whom Will had previously made a brochure for the European Union in 1996. Willy Maltaite died on 18 February 2000 and his final comic was completed by befriended comic artists. It was published posthumous by Le Lombard in 2000.